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Violence: The Legal Definition

When you think of violence, you might just assume that it’s defined as physical harm against another person. However, in terms of the legal definition, it also includes psychological harm and self harm.

According to various laws, violence is committed in a variety of ways. Are you interested in learning what they are? If so, continue reading the information below.

The Legal Definition of Violence

There’s the basic definition of what most people assume to be violence, and there’s the legal definition of the phrase. According to the World Health Organization, violence is defined as the attempted or real use of physical force or control against oneself.

It also refers to force against another individual, or a group or society that results in or has a high probability of causing physical damage, death, psychological damage, maldevelopment, or deficiency.

Although not universally recognized, the World Report on Violence and Health also provides a typology of violence that can be helpful in understanding the ways in which violence happens and the relationships between different forms of violence.

This typology describes four types of violence: physical, and psychological, and sexual assaults, as well as deprivation. The basic definition of violence is further subdivided into three categories based on the victim-perpetrator dynamic.

Self-directed violence is divided up into self-abuse and suicide and applies to violence when the suspect and survivor are the same person.

Interpersonal violence is described as violence between people, and it is categorized into two categories: family and romantic partner violence, and group violence. Child abuse, intimate relationship aggression, and elder harassment fall into the first group.

Outsider violence falls under the second and encompasses juvenile violence, attack by outsiders, violence relating to property offenses, and violence in workplaces and other organizations.

Collective violence refers to acts of violence perpetrated by broader groups of people, and it is categorized into three categories: religious, political, and financial violence.

Crime of Violence: Statutory Definition

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of Congress enacted in 1984. (CCCA). The act was “the culmination of a years-old bipartisan campaign,” according to the Senate Judiciary Committee document that followed the law.

Any state laws used the word “crime of abuse” in defining the characteristics of a criminal offense or the terms of imprisonment prior to the CCCA. 14 While there was no universal definition of a violent crime, Congress usually offered one when the word appeared in a federal statute.

For instance, Congress included a classification of a violent crime that was applied to particular criminal offenses in the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966:

Murder, rape, mayhem, kidnapping, theft, burglary, or breaking and entering in the middle of the night, extortion followed by threats of abuse. It also includes attack with a deadly weapon or violence with intent to commit any crime punishable by incarceration for over one year, arson punishable as a felony, or an attempt or conspiring to commit any of the aforementioned crimes.

Violence: Judicial Definition

Even after Congress’s efforts to provide a unified system of criminal activity, courts have failed to determine the nature of the definition. The Supreme Court has since stepped in on many occasions to explain the definition of a crime of abuse and other distinctly worded words throughout the federal penal code.

In determining the variety of actions protected by the COV specification, the courts have considered three main issues: (1) whether to look at the inherent actions of a federal crime, the statutory aspects of the felony, or a mixture of the two to see whether a person has been found guilty of a crime of violence. (2) the level of force required to meet the “physical force” portion of the COV description. (3) whether a violent felony necessitates a particular mental state.

A Violent Felony

In 1986, Congress revised the ACCA to exclude theft and kidnapping from the list of crimes that warranted increased punishment, replacing them with extended jail terms for those weapon prisoners who had three prior convictions for a “major crime” or “severe drug violation” (or both).

A violent crime, according to the ACCA, is one that “has as an aspect the use, attempted use, or attempted use of physical violence against another human.”

Click the highlighted link to learn more about how to move forward when there’s been an assault of a family member.

Misdemeanor Violence

The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal for such persons, such as those guilty of criminal crimes, to “ship or distribute any weapon or ammo in domestic or international trade,” among other restrictions.

In 1996, Congress changed the law to make it illegal for those guilty of a “misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse” to own a weapon. Domestic abuse is described as a misdemeanor crime that “has, as an aspect, the use or intended use of physical force” against a person in a domestic partnership under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33)(A).

Although the COV classification has been used by some examining courts to determine the extent of the ACCA’s violent felony interpretation, the Supreme Court and appellate courts have considered the COV definition to be less important in defining the minor crime of domestic abuse definition.

Understanding Violence

The legal definition of violence includes more details than the standard definition.  When it comes to violence, there are a plethora of manners in which to define the term.

Hopefully, the information above helps you to better understand the differences between all of the categories.

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